This is Sean Moore's response to What are you skating towards in 2012?
Effective Public Engagement in Civic Affairs
My current preoccupation, my passion, my thing these days, is to very personally and directly do something tangible about what most everyone seems to agree these days is the abysmal state of public engagement in civic affairs. I know, I know – that sounds to be a rather grand aspiration, especially coming from a semi-retiree – and a semi-retired lobbyist, at that!! But challenges can be invigorating and provide new motivation to be active.
For years, I’ve have been part of the chorus that wails about the seemingly ever-expanding universe of people who don’t vote, who disengage from public affairs and whose skepticism and cynicism leaves them frustrated and disillusioned. Samara’s recent report, The Real Outsiders: Politically Disengaged Views on Politics and Democracy undoubtedly confirmed the instincts of many who see a growing sentiment of detachment, a by product of a witch’s brew of economic distress, fear, cynicism and popular incomprehension of the complex and often bizarre ways of politics and modern government. These days, even the most well-resourced and experienced interest group leaders express their frustrations in dealing with both political and bureaucratic decision-makers from city hall to Parliament Hill.
Vexatious as that might be, it doesn’t hold a candle to the pain and frustration I witnessed first hand last December in Vancouver. Al Etmanski and I were hosting a day-long workshop on “advocacy skills for families.” In the room were 3 men and about 30 women – almost all individuals who were the primary caregivers of a loved one, a child, a grandchild, a sibling or a parent. All of them were there because they were pretty well near the end of their rope in dealing with government agencies and other public authorities who they thought were there to help. They wanted to know more about how they might better cope with what seemed to be impenetrable bureaucracy and unresponsive political institutions – a sentiment to be found in neighborhood groups, advocacy organizations and professional associations coast to coast to coast.
How can we have one of the most successful societies this planet has ever known and yet have what so many feel is such a dissatisfying relationships with our government and political institutions? Though the reasons and causes are many and varied, there is one which I aim to do what I can to address: citizens’ ability to engage their government’s effectively and to maximize their impact on public decision-making.
I certainly don’t have all the answers myself but I am accelerating my search for examples of individuals and organizations that have developed effective means of policy engagement and lobbying. My goal is not only to include these learnings in the work of my newly launched Advocacy School but to find other means to disseminate these stories and their lessons to educational institutions and other forums for training. Well, let’s give it the old college try! Anyone interested in joining the cause is welcome to come along for the ride. Contact me at email@example.com
Sean Moore is the founder and Principal of Advocacy School; a SiG Fellow and Public Policy and Advocacy Advisor to the SiG Social Innovation Generation initiative (a collaboration of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation of Montreal, the MaRS Discovery District of Toronto, the University of Waterloo and the PLAN Institute of Vancouver); and an advisor to a number of other Canadian foundations, NGOs, professional associations, law firms and corporations. He formerly served as a Partner and Public Policy Advisor at the national law firm, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP. Sean’s website: http://www.seanmoore.ca/
Note: I am releasing individual essays from the collection, What are you skating towards in 2012? on a regular basis. Upcoming contributions are by Jacques Dufresne, Linda Perry, Rchard Bridge, Steve Sunderland, Kirsteen Main and many others. You can access the accumulated essays here.